The world has a new tropical paradise destination – Sihanoukville. Relatively new, unspoiled, crystal clear, softer-than-sugar white sand, empty beaches that are almost all to yourself. Who would have thought that Cambodia can offer such a place? I bet you didn’t.
Sihanoukville is a small coastal city in southern Cambodia facing the Gulf of Thailand. It was only established in 1955 and development was arrested during the repressive regimes of the 70s. It wasn’t until the 90s did the new chapter of development came, so basically, the town is still unfinished.
It is known by the locals as - Kompong Saom or Krong Preah Sihanouk. But seasoned visitors affectionately call it “Snooky”. The town was named after King Norodom Sihanouk.
The key to enjoying this place is knowing what kind of beach you fancy. Sihanoukville offers an impressive array of world class beaches by category – there are touristy ones with majorettes twirling fire, there are quiet ones for self-pitying dramas, high-traffic ones to display yourself, exclusive ones for the can-affords, shallow ones for the kids, for serious swimming, for sailing, for chilling out and a lot more. As the Cambodian tourism office put it – we have all kinds of beaches.
There are 5 main central beach areas -- Victory Beach, Independence Beach, Sokha Beach, Ochheuteal Beach and Otres Beach.
Victory Beach is a busy beach and ever popular with the first time visitors and travelers because it is near to the backpackers’ enclave of Victory Hill. Very commercial with lots of small bars, hawkers selling junk, food stalls and alike. It’s divided into 2 beaches – Port Beach and Hawaii Beach. The sand is narrow and real estate development is on full swing here.
Next to it is Independence Beach – it’s more quiet, less crowded and good for one of those self-reflecting-cum-self-reassessment walks on its long sandy catwalk. Less crowd means less hawkers so you can enjoy a nice and quiet sun soaking here without anyone poking you on the back ruining your tanning lotion. Argh! They don't understand!
Sokha Beach is for the more exclusive bunch. It’s clean, sterile, sanitized and immaculately manicured. Sokha Beach is privately owned by Sokha Beach Resort, a typical international standard hideaway for the "can affords". Think “non-paying-visitors-not-welcome” kinda feel to it. Here is where me and my friends stayed because I lost the voting 4-1. *I wanted Serendipity Beach*
Nearby to the south is Ochheuteal Beach /’oh-‘shur-‘teel/ – the grandest, the busiest, the carnival of beaches. Lots of bars, seafood restos, guest houses, souvenir kiosks, and people to watch and people to impress…oh this is one big kahuna! Serendipity Beach is a part of this area and it’s where the cool people hang around and chill out.
You like isolation and solitude? Otres Beach is the place for you. Its wide and relatively long curve is the least developed of all the 5 central beaches. Here is where the water sports junkies head to. The beach is wide, the water is great and you won’t hear chuckling hyenas if you fall off your jet ski. Ha!
Sihanoukville is a wide area which means everything is kms away if you fail to choose the right beach for you. As I said, the key to enjoying Sihanoukville is knowing the beach you fancy. The hype and greater crowd will surely catch up to this new tropical destination sooner or later.
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